Saturday, September 18, 2010

Review - Hazen: The Dark Whispers PC Game

Hazen: The Dark Whispers (PC Game)


Minimum Requirements:
CPU:    Intel Pentium 4 2.0 GHz/AMD Athlon SSE2
RAM:    1 GB RAM (1.5 GB for Vista)       
VGA:    128 MB with Pixel Shader 2.0
Direct X version 9.0       
OS:      Windows Vista or Windows XP SP2       
HDD:    3 GB    
Sound:  DirectX compatible sound card

CPU:    Intel Core 2 Duo/AMD Athlon X2 family
RAM:    2 GB RAM (3 GB for Vista)
VGA:    NVIDIA 8800/ATI 3850 (512 MB)
OS:      Windows Vista or Windows XP SP2
HDD:    4 GB 

Hazen is a Diablo clone with some noticable differences.  

First off, it saves it exactly where you left off.  This is important and addressed to all game designers who will be designing games from this day forward: Stop putting us fucking back at the beginning when we save!  It was a quantum leap forward when you could boot up a game and not be back at the inn (like in the Wizardry games of the early 1980s).  With Diablo II, Dungeon Siege II, and other games, the designers decided that if you saved it, it would throw you back in town.  What's more, the monsters would respawn, so you'd have to fight your way back through again, possibly at reduced effectiveness with broken items and lost hit points or attributes, etc.  Apparently the game designers' dump stat was Wisdom.  In Hazen, if you're in the middle of a bridge fighting skeletons, if you save it, you'll be right where you expected to be, in the middle of a bridge fighting skeletons.  Wow!  What a concept!

The skills are not restricted to character classes.  As interesting as these classes are in the Diablo series, Hazen pretty much lets you learn any skill, the only restrictions being level.  While I don't care too much for the level limit theory, I like more open-ended skill systems.  The skills sound kinda cool too, with evocative names like Deathbringer and Evoke Guardian.

The manual leaves A LOT to be desired.  It's fucking thin.  It's got a spot to show off the interface (including a topic heading by that name), but its blank.  Fortunately, the interface is fairly straightforward, but I would have liked some explanation of hotkeys, at least, and maybe a map to go along with the descriptions of the areas I'm supposed to go to.  The in-game automap seems fairly sparse and next to useless.  

The fighting is fairly simple.  Just click on enemies until you or they are dead.  Right-click on items, and left click on items in the game world.  Quest areas often have a floating question mark over them, and so do quest givers.  The journal lets you know when to head back to town, but you have to read it to find this info.

The graphics aren't exactly light years ahead of their time.  They're fun, with the particle effects, ripples in the water, and reflections you'd expect to see, but some landscape items are cartoonish -- which is okay.  The graphics and sound pretty much let you know what's going on.

Here I come, charging against the Death Cows of the Wild Frontier!  Whee!

If there was one thing I could wish for it would be something more like Divine Divinity.  If you're going to make a Diablo clone, maybe have a huge well-thought out storyline behind it.

I think that's something that we as Game Masters and Players can take away from this, as well.  That window dressing is all fine and good, but what engages us most is a compelling story.  A story isn't just something that breaks up endless hordes of monsters to fight, it engages us, challenges us, and inspires us.  At least it does me.  Fantastically well-played characters, successful adventures, layers of plot peeled back, and like an onion, there's always more to peel.  At the end of a day of gaming, what makes you feel good?


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